Plato's Lysis: Aporia and Dialectic Logoi. Friendship “realized” all throughout the Dialogue

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Plato's Lysis: Aporia and Dialectic Logoi. Friendship “realized” all throughout the Dialogue

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  RCatT XXIIII1 (1998) 109-1 18 O Facultat de Teologia de Catalunya PLATO S LYSIS: APORIA AND DIALECTIC LOGOI FRIENDSHIP «REALIZED» ALL THROUGHOUT THE DIALOGUE* Antoni BOSCH-VECIANA The last words in the Lysis are eloquent enough and induce us, at first, to feel disappointed: «what a friend is, we have not yet succeeded in discover- ingni O6nco 6E0.61 íktiv Ó cpiho~ ioi te Eyevóyeea EEeug~iv: 23b7-8). Just before these words, after Socrates summary of what had been said in that part of the dialogue a summary like those that orators used to pronounce be- fore tribunals), we hear from Socrates own mouth, and in just as conclusive a way: «If none of these is a friend, 1 am at a loss for anything further to say» ei pq6Ev to6tov rpihov Eatív, Eyh pEv oGniti Exco ti AÉyco: 222e6-7). The fail- ure of the quest seems evident enough. Accordingly, many scholars have reached a definitive conclusion: the Lysis is a dialogue without an outcome. The aporia, to which we have been led by the different examinations to which the question about friendship asked to Menexenus has been subjected, is finally witnessed in 223b7-8. At the beginning of his conversation with Menexenus, when the latter was on his way back after having helped in a religious cere- mony, Socrates asked him this question following Lysis request: «When one person loves another, which of the two becomes a friend of the other, the lov- ing of the loved, or the loved of the loving? Or is there no difference?» EnaiGav ti5 tiva cp~hq, ótego5 not6gou cpihoc yiyvetct~, Ó q~A6v oU cpihoupivou Ó cpihoUp~v05 oV cpihof~vto~ O6Ev G~acpÉ~ai; 12a8-bl). With this question starts that part of the dialogue whose direct aim is to answer with arguments the question about friendship. However, at the end of the dia- * This paper was read at the 5th Simposium Platonicum of the International Plato Society, held from 19 to 23 August 1998 at the University olFToronto. 1 Plato. III Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias. English translation by W R. M. Lamb (Loeb Clas- sical Library), London 1925, p. 71 (223b 7-8 . From here on, we will quote from this translation. As regards the srcinal Greek text, we will use J. Biirnet s edition.  110 ANTONI BOSCH-VECIANA logue, we reach a cul-de-sac. We could well say, with W. K. C. Guthrie that «the Lysis is not a success. Even Plato can n~d»~. f he is not deeply attentive to the literary and philosophical aspects of the dialogue in its entirety, the reader is bound to be left with the bitter aftertaste caused by a disappointing reading. In these pages we intend to explain what, to our understanding, is pre- cisely one of the hermeneutical clues that allows us to comprehend the Lysis. We will try to do so, in a necessarily brief way, by making, first of all, place for some considerations about the so-called «final aporia»3 of the Lysis and will then proceed to emphasize the importance of accomplishing and comprehend- ing friendship -of realizing it and also of realizing what it is- al1 along the three discourses that Plato's Lysis offers us. With this, we believe that we will be able to uphold our thesis: the Lysis is a dialogue where, in spite of the fact that we cannot succeed in discovering ESEWQE~V n 223b8), by means of the logical discourse, 'what a friend is', we can, nonetheless, succeed in bringing about friendship and in comprehending it -realizing it and realizing what it means- as the same dialogue advances. As a consequence, friendship can only be com- prehended in the cours of the process that leads to its accomplishment and, at the same time, it can be accomplished only insofar as it is comprehended. Comprehension and accomplishment are both parts of a whole in the exer- cise of the virtues and, consequently, in the exercise of friendship. However, comprehension will never, in Plato's first dialogues -the aporetical ones- give way to a «definition», at least in its modo aristotelico4. This is the reason why, 2. W. K. C. GUTHRIE, Histo~ f Greek Philosophy. IV Plato. The Man and his Dialogues, Cambridge 1975, p. 143. Since ancient times, the Socratic tradition used to regard the Lysis as a Socratic misinterpretation on the part of the young Plato (cf. DIOGENES AERTIUS, e clarorurn philosophorum vitis, dogmatibus et apophthegmatib~~s ibri decem, 1, 3, 35). 3. We analysed the «final aporia» of Plato's Lysis in a paper presented the ISth setember 1997 in the Seminar «Hermeneutica i Platonismen at the «Societat Catalana de Filosofia» (Insti- tut d'Estudis Catalans - Barcelona), published under the title Notes per una lectura de 1 aporia jinal'del Lisis platonic (Notes or a reading oj'the '&al aporia' in Plato Lysis), Barcelona, Edi- cions KAL-Universitat de Barcelona, 1998. Regarding to the 'final aporia' we read in V. GOLD- SCHMIDT, es dialogues de Platon, Paris 1947, p. 62: «C'est improprement qu'on peut intituler ainsi ( CEssence et 1'Aporie finale ) la demiere partie des cinq dialogues (Euthyphron, Hippias Majeur, Charmide, Laches, Lysis). Car si jamais l'enquete dialectique parvient I'Essence, ce doit etre par l'ascension jusqu'au principe inconditionné, donc, nous I'avons vu, 3 un moment qui se place entre la notion definitionnelle et la determination . ) Cessence apparaitra au cours de cette critique, mais il est probable qu'elle ne se montrera pas en pleine lumiere, puisque aussi bien l'entreprise se terminera par un échec.» 4. Here we mean the Aristotelian comprehension of «definition» which, we believe, has had such an important influence on the reading of Plato's aporetical dialogues. See Metaphysics, 13, 4 1078b, where the quest for «definition» is attributed to Socrates (Ó~i~~o0ui u00hou) and Posterior Analitics 11 3, 90b and €f., where Aristotle analyzes the universal definiton and works out its typology. If the dialogues receive the name of aporetical, it is for the reason that they don't succeed in establishing what the «what is» of any of the values X under examination is. The ab- sence of definition is generally attributed to Plato's younger age. In fact, Plato is aiming at com- prehension rather than at the Aristotelian «definition».  in spite of the fact that it has not been possible to define what a friend is, it is indeed possible to succeed in comprehending and accomplishing friendship. If we focus again on the last words of the Lysis (223b7-8), quoted at the be- ginning of this paper, we will notice that they are part of a wider context, a par- ticularly relevant one. When Plato says: «What a friend is, we have not yet succeeded in discovering» (223b7-8), we cannot leave aside the immediate context where we can read: «However, just as they were moving off, 1 re- marked: To-day, Lysis and Menexenus, we have made ourselves ridiculous -1, an old man, as well as you. For these others will go away and te11 how we be- lieve we are friends of one another -Eor 1 count myself in with you- but (what a friend is, we have not yet succeeded in discovering)» (Opos 6 Eyoye 46q &XLÓYTCOV aG~iñ)v, Gv piv, fiv 6 Eyh, AWOL E ilai MEVÉEEYE, ima yihaato~ eyóvap~v- Eyh TE, yiewv &v.Jle, ilai 5p~Ls. QO~OL y&@ OL~ &~LO~TES s oióp~ea ip~?;~ hh.Jlhwv cpihol Elval -xai EpE y"Qv 5piv Tieqpl- O~XCO E OTL ~TLV cpihoc oloi TE Eyevóp~Ba EEWQEW: 23b3-8). From the aforementioned text, we' would like to note the following points: a) Socrates, once the reunion has come to an end (G~eh6oap~v qv ouvovoiav: 223b35) and the participants are about to leave, speaks to Lysis and Menexenus (and to the readers ) to swmmarily explain what has occurred and this is, in our view, one of the hermeneutical clues to the dialogue, just as we will explain further on; b Socrates' verification of the ridiculousness of the situation of the participants in the conversation (xa~ayihaozol eyóvap~v: 223b4-5), as it has been put forward by the reflection (or logical discourse) on the relationship existing between the friends, marks a very important point for the comprehension of the structure of the dialogue and the explanation of its contents; c even though Socrates narrates the scene (and the whole dialogue) in the first person, here he plays the literary game that consists in making others («these others will go away and tell»: 223b 5-6) say what they think concem- ing the ridiculousness of Socrates, Lysis and Menexenus' situation. These others may be metaphorically taken as «the readers», attentive to the conver- sation but still not skilful enough to be able to take part in it and understand it6. 5. We must remark the closeness between the name of the protagonist AI~S nd the LE~~OU~EV t the end of the dialogue. A closeness achieved by making use of a verb that has to do, like Lysis' name, with «realising» and with «dissolving». After the meeting, a metaphorical «realising» has been accomplished, and with it the ability to think without help from that mom- nent on has been obtained. Socrates, the friend, has made it possible insofar as he has taken the role of a mentor in directing the accomplishment of friendship. 6. Here, as well as in other places, the personality and name of the sophist Miccus (204a5) acquires its full sense; it is a sophist named Miccus (someone of little importante; derived from the Greek Mixgo~) ho is described as a «no slight person, but a qualified professor~ o6 rpctuhó~ &v~Q, hh' ixctvo~ orpla-cr~: 04&6-7). This sophist, «cornrade» and «supporter» of Socrates Los kzaigós ye, 6 65, nui EX~LV~T~S, íxr.05: 204 s) is the person who teaches in the palaestra where the conversations take place in this dialogue. Accordingly, the young men who attended it were taught by a sophist «of little importancez and, as a consequence, could not  112 ANTONI BOSCH-VECIANA In the text, they are simple listeners that eventually go away and draw their own conclusions about the meeting. By making a note of the fact that these others do tell, Plato means to warn us about their partial conclusion: d he contents to which «the others» make reference, are precisely the confirmation of the ab- sence of an outcome in Socratic investigations: «what a friend is, we have not yet succeeded in discovering» (223b7-8). From the above-mentioned text, namely from 223b3-8, we have reserved until now an excerpt which, according to our judgment, is a capital passage, only to deal with it in detail now. It is the following one: «we believe we are friends of one another -for 1 count myself in with you- but . » (OS oiÓpe0a 4y~T; hh.Jlhov cpihoi E~~UL xai EyE ya@ Ev 6piv t;011y~-: 223b6-7). Plato thought it essential to place this passage here. It is an excerpt which consists of two propositions: the first one, Os oiópe0a 4pei; hhqhov cpiho~ vcr~, sets down Socrates' self-awareness, which can be extended to Lysjs and Menexenus, (oiÓp~0a) f reciprocal friendship ( hhqhov) among the inter- locutor~ f the scene; the second one reasons Socrates' specific self-aware- ness: il i EpE y @ v 6piv ~ieqpi, nd puts forward Socrates' primacy when it comes to realizing an already-realized friendship, that is comprehending an accomplished friendship. We would like specifically to underline the importance of oiÓye0a in the first proposition. Plato does indeed make Socrates use a present of the indica- tive mood and, in doing so, stresses the verbal aspect of continuousness. When Socrates says: «we believe», he intends to let it be known that, at the end of the dialogue, neither he nor his interlocutors have been able to discover what a friend is, but still trust their already-established friendship. In this way, that al- ready-accomplished friendship, which has been comprehended through the di- alogue, finds its confirmation. It is true that Socrates had not met Lysis nor Menexenus; this can be deduced from the initial scene of the dialogue, one that is full of news, and from the way in which both Lysis (204el-8) and Menex- enus (206d3-6) are introduced. The whole situation makes us aware of Socrates' unfamiliarity with the two youths or, at least, we are allowed to sus- tain that between both of them and Socrates there was no friendship, even though there might have been some previous knowledge. Furthermore, as we have said before, this friendship, as it has been conveyed to us by the text, is characterized by its reciprocity ( hh.Jlhcov), which is precisely one of the characteristics of which Socrates talked when he explained friendship as a re- lationship, after inquiring about this relationship while he was addressing Menexenus (cf. 212a8-bl). succeed in perceiving that a friendship among Socrates, Lysis and Menexenus had been attained. Miccus' worthlessness can be appreciated after seeing that Menexenus' dialectical tutorship has been taken care of by Ctessipus. Thus, Menexenus has become a formidable person (6~1~0~ @ 6 iYv0~wxos: 11~5) nd a keen disputant Ee~az~xó~ oztv: 211b8) because he has been Ctes- sipus' disciple (Ktqohxow yu0qz45: 211~5).  Of the second proposition mi kui: ya@ v 6piv zieyy~), e would like to underline the explanation (y @) f the Socratic self-awareness of friendship. It is Socrates himself who states that he, for one, sees himself as a friend within (kv 6plv zieyp~) he friendship shared by Lysis and Menexenus and, as a consequence, he himself knows that he is their friend. We must notice that, in spite of Socrates' advanced age (see yÉ~cov vre n 223b5) and despite the fact that both young men are the same age, or nearly the same age (207cl-2), and that it seems evident that they are both friends, there is no impediment to Socrates' stating his friendship with the youths. In fact, in Plato's view, friend- ship is not a matter of age, but a matter of sharing the will to know, and this will is not determined by age7. In short, we may affirm that the context of the so-called «final aporia» does not allow us to perceive only the unsuccessful end of the dialogue and leave it at this pointx. The apparent final failure of the Lysis entails, if we take into ac- count the whole context, a very valuable achievement in the field of human re- lational attitudes: the reciprocal relation that produces friendship. In the same paragraph, the experience of an accomplished friendship asserts itself; it is a friendship that has been achieved as the dialogue proceeded, a friendship that, according to «the others», it has not been possible to express. Friendship is a human experience, a comprehensible one, but, at the same time, one that it is difficult to conceptualize, a hardly «definable» experience. Friendship is a human experience, which means that it exists in order to be lived. It is a «doing» that is difficult to «say». It looks as if between «doing» and «saying» (cf. 206~2- 3) a disharmony had arisen, but it is only an apparent dishamony. Plato wishes to show that this disharmony is a hindrance that has to be overcome: there must be no imbalance between «doing» and «saying»g, they have to be complemen- tary. This is the great lesson that Plato learned from his mentor Socrates. Socrates was indeed ready to die (doiiig) for what he said (saying). The Apolo- gia and the Crito reveal it in a very forceful way. In the Apologia we can read the most clear model of «aporia»: Socrates' logos finds no way out before the tribunal that will sentence him to deaith. But it is with his death that his logos is fulfilled. This apparent contradiction of «aporia» is what gives sense to the same «aporia». Plato has perfectly intemalized Socrates and a good proof of that is the fact that Lysis himself echoes Plato's adoption of Socrates in his three speeches, where he shows to us his accomplishment and comprehension of human friendship. 7 Cf the reflection on age in 209a4 and ff. 8. In the dialogues named aporetical and, in a similar way, in the Lysis, a definition is not reached, but the realization of something that has to do with the subject under examination is eventually achieved. 9. Cf. H. G. GADAMER, agos und Ergon m platonischen «Lysis»: H. G. GADAMER, leine Schriften. 111: Idee und Sprache Tühingen 1972, pp 50-63.
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